A new year is a time of new beginnings and fresh starts—-and, perhaps most importantly, a resetting of your reading list for the new year. Didn’t hit your reading goal in 2023? Well, that’s okay, because it’s time to set a new one. And what better time to start than this January, which features several of the biggest fantasy releases of the year right out of the gate?
From the latest Sarah J. Maas doorstopper and the conclusion of Olivie Blake’s The Atlas Six trilogy to intriguing debuts from authors like Georgia Summers and Gourav Mohanty, readers are spoiled choice in all kinds of ways this month.
Here are our picks for the must-read fantasy books hitting shelves in January.
Dark Star Burning Ash Falls White by Amelie Wen Zhao
Release Date: January 2 from Delacorte
Why You’ll Love It: This thrilling sequel to Song Like Silver, Flame Like Night sees the battle for the fate of the Last Kingdom come to a head—as Hin survivor Lan and magic practitioner Zen find themselves on opposite sides of the fight for the future of their homeland. An action-packed final chapter with an ending that will stick with you.
Publisher’s Description: Years ago, the Elantian colonizers invaded Lan’s homeland and killed her mother in their search to uncover the Last Kingdom’s greatest the location of its legendary four Demon Gods. Lan’s mother devoted her life to destroying the Demon Gods, and Lan is determined to finish her mission. Yet, there are others searching for the gods, too.
Zen knew his soul was forfeit the moment he made a deal with the Demon God known as the Black Tortoise, but he’s willing to lose himself if it means saving the Kingdom–and the girl–he loves. But to crush the colonizers who have invaded his land he needs more power than even a single Demon God can provide. He needs an army. And he knows exactly where he can find it–in the undead army his great-grandfather lead decades ago.
The Elantians may have stolen their throne, but the battle for the Last Kingdom has only begun.
Sons of Darkness by Gourav Mohanty
Release Date: January 9 from Head of Zeus
Why You’ll Love It: A grimdark fantasy based on the Indian epic poem the Mahabharata has a little of everything: a sweeping scope, an occasionally overwhelming cast of characters, warring kingdoms, gods, assassins, and more.
Publisher’s Description: Bled dry by violent confrontations with the Magadhan Empire, the Mathuran Republic simmers on the brink of oblivion. Krishna and Satyabhama have put their plans in motion within and beyond the Republic’s blood-soaked borders to protect it from annihilation. But they will soon discover that neither gold nor alliances last forever.
They are however not alone in this game.
Mati, Pirate-Princess of Kalinga, has decided to mend her ways to be a good wife. But old habits die hard, especially when one habitually uses murder to settle old scores. Brooding but beautiful Karna hopes to bury his brutal past but finds that destiny is a miser when it comes to giving second chances. The crippled hero-turned-torturer Shakuni limps through the path of daggers that is politics only to find his foes multiply, leaving little time for vengeance.
Their lives are about to become very difficult for a cast of sinister queens, naive kings, pious assassins and ravenous priests are converging where the Son of Darkness is prophesied to rise, even as forgotten Gods prepare to play their hand.
The Atlas Complex by Olivie Blake
Release Date: January 9 from Tor Books
Why You’ll Love It: The final installment in Olivie Blake’s addictive dark academia trilogy, The Atlas Complex brings the story of The Atlas Six to a thrilling conclusion.
Publisher’s Description: An explosive return to the library leaves the six Alexandrians vulnerable to the lethal terms of their recruitment.
Old alliances quickly fracture as the initiates take opposing strategies as to how to deal with the deadly bargain they have so far failed to uphold. Those who remain with the archives wrestle with the ethics of their astronomical abilities, while elsewhere, an unlikely pair from the Society cohort partner to influence politics on a global stage.
And still the outside world mobilizes to destroy them, while the Caretaker himself, Atlas Blakely, may yet succeed with a plan foreseen to have world-ending stakes. It’s a race to survive as the six Society recruits are faced with the question of what they’re willing to betray for limitless power―and who will be destroyed along the way.
Sanctuary of the Shadow by Aurora Ascher
Release Date: January 9 from Red Tower Books
Why You’ll Love It: A woman cursed with the power of prophecy is forced to take refuge among the outcasts of a traveling circus where she can disguise both her abilities and her true identity. But when the ringmaster captures a mysterious winged creature he claims is a deadly Wraith—the amnesiac monster will provide the key to unlocking the secrets of her past. Author Aurora Asher’s worldbuilding is particularly colorful and interesting
Publisher’s Description: For humans, Salizar’s is a place of mystery and wonder. For Harrow, it’s a place to hide from those who slaughtered her entire clan. A haven where she can disguise both her abilities and who she really is.
Until he arrives.
He has no recollection of who—or even what—he is. He only knows that he’s a monster, with wings and powerful abilities never seen before. But beneath the layers of rage and isolation, one glimpse into those inky black eyes reveals a soul that calls out to the loneliness in Harrow.
And so she chooses him.
She is drawn to the mystery of him, her unquenchable need for his kiss. And as powerful enemies align and conspire against them, Harrow knows their only hope is escape.
Now, with every secret she unlocks from his past, a shadow from her own whispers free—luring enemies who will stop at nothing to get their final revenge on Harrow. And she’s given them the perfect weapon…because her winged beast is not what he seems.
But maybe it’s time they finally learn—neither is she.
Unbound by Christy Healy
Release Date: January 16 from Blackstone Publishing
Why You’ll Love It: A gender bent Beauty and the Beast retelling full of lyrical prose and lush imagery, author Christy Healy also draws inspiration from sources as diverse as Irish folklore, the Thousand and One Nights, and Beowulf.
Publisher’s Description: Rozlyn Ó Conchúir is used to waiting—waiting for the king, her father, to relent and allow her to leave the solitude of her tower; waiting for the dreaded and mysterious Beast of Connacht to at last be defeated; waiting for the arrival of the man destined to win her heart and break the terrible curse placed on her and her land. So, when she meets Jamie—a charming and compelling suitor—she allows herself to hope that her days of solitude and patience are at long last over.
But as she finds her trust betrayed and with newer, more sinister threats arising, Rozlyn learns that some curses are better left unbroken …
Emily Wilde’s Map of the Otherlands by Heather Fawcett
Release Date: January 16 from Del Ray
Why You’ll Love It: Heather Fawcett’s Emily Wilde series is peak cozy fantasy, and this second volume is likely to be the warm hug we all need in the winter’s darkest days.
Publisher’s Description: Emily Wilde is a genius scholar of faerie folklore—she just wrote the world’s first comprehensive of encylopaedia of faeries. She’s learned many of the secrets of the Hidden Folk on her adventures . . . and also from her fellow scholar and former rival, Wendell Bambleby.
Because Bambleby is more than infuriatingly charming. He’s an exiled faerie king on the run from his murderous mother, and in search of a door back to his realm. So despite Emily’s feelings for Bambleby, she’s not ready to accept his proposal of marriage: Loving one of the Fair Folk comes with secrets and danger.
And she also has a new project to focus a map of the realms of faerie. While she is preparing her research, Bambleby lands her in trouble yet again, when assassins sent by Bambleby’s mother invade Cambridge. Now Bambleby and Emily are on another adventure, this time to the picturesque Austrian Alps, where Emily believes they may find the door to Bambley’s realm, and the key to freeing him from his family’s dark plans.
But with new relationships for the prickly Emily to navigate and dangerous Folk lurking in every forest and hollow, Emily must unravel the mysterious workings of faerie doors, and of her own heart.
Faebound by Saara El-Arifi
Release Date: January 23 from Del Ray
Why You’ll Love It: The first installment in a new trilogy from the bestselling author of The Final Strife follows the story of two elven sisters who find themselves exiled and then trapped in the dangerous and mythical world of the fae court.
Publisher’s Description: Yeeran is a warrior in the elven army and has known nothing but violence her whole life. Her sister, Lettle, is trying to make a living as a diviner, seeking prophecies of a better future.
When a fatal mistake leads to Yeeran’s exile from the Elven lands, they are both forced into the terrifying wilderness beyond their borders. There they encounter the impossible: the fae court.
The fae haven’t been seen for a millennium. But now Yeeran and Lettle are thrust into their seductive world – torn between their loyalty to each other, their elven homeland, and their hearts.
The City of Stardust by Georgia Summers
Release Date: January 30 from Orbit
Why You’ll Love It: An intriguing standalone fantasy about a cursed family doomed to lose their best and most promising young members in payment for a bargain no one remembers mixes elements of romantasy, dark academia, and adventure into something altogether fresh and fun.
Publisher’s Description: For centuries, generations of Everlys have seen their brightest and best disappear, taken as punishment for a crime no one remembers, for a purpose no one understands. Their tormentor, a woman named Penelope, never ages, never grows sick – and never forgives a debt.
Violet Everly was just a child when her mother Marianne vanished on a stormy night, determined to break the curse. And when Penelope cannot find her, she issues an Violet has ten years to find Marianne, or she will take her place. Violet is the last of the Everly line, the last to suffer from the curse. Unless she can break it first.
To do so, she must descend into a seductive magical underworld of power-hungry scholars, fickle gods and monsters bent on revenge. She must also contend with Penelope’s quiet assistant, Aleksander, who she knows cannot be trusted – and yet whose knowledge of a world beyond her own is too valuable to avoid.
Tied to a very literal deadline, Violet will travel the edges of the world to find Marianne and the key to the city of stardust, where the Everly story began.
Crescent City: House of Flame and Shadow by Sarah J. Maas
Release Date: January 30 from Bloomsbury Publishing
Why You’ll Love It.: The third installment in Sarah J. Maas’s wildly popular Crescent City series likely needs no introduction—or hype. Buckle up, folks.
Publisher’s Description: Bryce Quinlan never expected to see a world other than Midgard, but now that she has, all she wants is to get back. Everything she loves is in Midgard: her family, her friends, her mate. Stranded in a strange new world, she’s going to need all her wits about her to get home again. And that’s no easy feat when she has no idea who to trust.
Hunt Athalar has found himself in some deep holes in his life, but this one might be the deepest of all. After a few brief months with everything he ever wanted, he’s in the Asteri’s dungeons again, stripped of his freedom and without a clue as to Bryce’s fate. He’s desperate to help her, but until he can escape the Asteri’s leash, his hands are quite literally tied.
Lacy Baugher Milas is the Books Editor at Paste Magazine, but loves nerding out about all sorts of pop culture. You can find her on Twitter @LacyMB